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Article: Become a Female Entrepreneur

Become a Female Entrepreneur

Become a Female Entrepreneur

CHECK OUT OUR FOUNDER, JENNIFER JANSCH, IN THE BOOK “BLI EN FÖRETAGARINNA” (BECOME A FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR) BY SANDRA KASTÅS. THE BOOK BRINGS UP 10 OBSTACLES THAT FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS MUST OVERCOME, AND HOW TO OVERCOME THEM. IN THE CHAPTER ABOUT JENNIFER, YOU CAN READ ALL ABOUT HOW BAG-ALL WAS FOUNDED, THE VISION BEHIND THE BRAND, AND JENNIFER’S BEST TIPS FOR SUCCESS WHEN STARTING YOUR OWN BRAND.
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“JENNIFER BUILT HER BRAND, BAG BY BAG”

For five years, Jennifer collected thoughts and ideas in her notebook. She knew she wanted to build something, but she wasn’t sure what it would be or what her company would sell. Jennifer had previously worked as a stylist for Swedish celebrities and as a Creative Director for various fashion magazines, but in 2008, she felt like she needed a change. She was in her forties and wanted to build something of her own where her hard work would benefit herself and not others, and where she would be her own boss.

Jennifer knew that she wanted to sell a product, and that it had to be sustainable, flat, lightweight, and easy to produce and ship worldwide. Her product also had to be relatively cheap to produce since she didn’t have too much money to invest in her idea. Initially, she thought she was going to design jewelry. She started looking around for jewelry packaging and stumbled upon this small American company that made fabric gift bags. She thought this was a great idea! However, their bags were not impressive at all, and there seemed to be a gap in the market for stylish but sustainable gift bags. At the same time, this product checked off every single box on Jen’s list - her product was born and the year was 2013.

Today, Bag-all sells different types of fabric bags, reusable gift bags, cases, packing cubes, and totes. Everything is made from natural cotton (except for two leather pieces) and is intended to help customers organize their homes and suitcases. Bag-all is all about reuse, and showing people that sustainability and style are compatible. By reuse, we can waste reduce.

Jennifer outside the Bag-all flagship store in New York.

Jennifer outside the Bag-all flagship store in New York.

BAG-ALL WASN’T BORN OVERNIGHT

It took a couple of years for Jennifer to turn her initial thoughts and ideas into a finished product. During this time, she and her family also moved from Stockholm to New York, without really knowing what New York had in mind for the Jansch family. As soon as her product idea was born, the company took off fast and things started moving quickly. Since funding was limited, Jennifer built her company bag by bag. She produced a couple of bags, sold them, and produced some more. To keep costs down, Jennifer’s husband and children have all been very involved in the brand and have helped with everything from packing orders to modeling for the website.

Jennifer and her three daughters, Celeste, Margaux and Caprice, outside of their Bali home.

Jennifer and her three daughters, Celeste, Margaux and Caprice, outside of their Bali home.

As there wasn’t a budget for market research, Jennifer used friends and family for that part as well. She started sewing her own fabric gift bags and gave them to people around her to get feedback on her idea. She learned that people were using her gift bags for other things than gifting, like for example, to store things in their homes and to pack things in their suitcases. This gave Jennifer a new idea - what if she could make organizing bags that could store everything from shoes to hairdryers? And if they had a print on the outside, the bags would be both stylish and convenient.

It took a while to find the right factory, but a couple of months later, Jennifer had a small collection of fabric bags ready and a website up and running. The next step was to get the word about Bag-all out there, and to do so, Jennifer participated in a New York trade show. She called in the little sister of one of her friends and together, they attended New York NOW. None of them had ever done a trade show before, but they quickly learned the ropes. They received multiple orders during the show and built relationships with major resellers that would help them lay the foundation for Bag-all as we know it today.

Jenny (CEO & Partner Bag-all Australia), Jennifer (CEO, Founder & Owner) & Julia (VP and Head of Expansion) outside of the Bag-all Sydney Store.

Jenny (CEO & Partner Bag-all Australia), Jennifer (CEO, Founder & Owner) & Julia (VP and Head of Expansion) outside of the Bag-all Sydney Store.

After the trade show, Jennifer started receiving large orders and the family’s apartment on the Upper West Side was acting as the Bag-all warehouse. It was covered in boxes and Jennifer realized that it was time to find a space for Bag-all. The brand was now ready for its first showroom/office/retail store.

Today, the friend’s little sister, Julia Arhammar, is the VP and Head of Expansion of Bag-all and works full-time for the company, which has grown quite a bit since 2013. Currently, Bag-all sells its products to more than 28 countries around the world and has stores and distributors in various cities around the world. As a matter of fact, the company has employees in seven countries! Jennifer, who is now 52, is currently living in Bali with her family, where they just finished building their dream home. “I feel very free and flexible. I and Julia can decide on something when we’re on the go and implement it the following day. We never have to ask anyone else for their permission and it’s a wonderful feeling.”

 

 

JENNIFER’S BEST TIPS FOR FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS

  • Get a notebook and start writing down thoughts, dreams and ideas, even if seem strange or unrealistic at the time. Don’t spend so much time thinking about where you are headed. The road can be long and not always straight forward, and the end goal can change. However, when you know, you’ll know. One day, you’ll have an idea that is almost recognizable, like if it was meant to be this whole time.

  • It’s important to listen to your peers and to ask for advice when needed. The best ideas I ever had came to me after talking to other people. I always ask people for their opinions and would never make a major decision without consulting with others. There are always better ways to do things.

  • If you, like me, don’t want to raise money for your startup or include investors, make sure to use all the resources you have around you, including friends and family. They are a great help!

Jennifer in Bag-all’s Brooklyn Office & Warehouse.

Jennifer in Bag-all’s Brooklyn Office & Warehouse.

  • Trust your inner, moral compass. If something doesn’t feel 100%, it typically isn’t ideal. Listen to your stomach feeling and act based on it. In 99% of cases, it is right! If a person or company treats you poorly, don’t accept it!

  • Finding good staff can be challenging. I would rather hire someone who has zero industry experience but who is a great person. When hiring for key roles, I almost always only consider people I have worked with before. I also never do business with anyone I have not met, and I only want to work with people who I like and would enjoy spending time with outside of work, over a dinner. When hiring, the stomach feeling is key and if you go against it, it will boomerang its way back repeatedly.

  • Make sure to always negotiate on terms and conditions with your resellers so that they are beneficial to you and your business. I ended my collaboration with Amazon because their terms were ridiculous and only beneficial to themselves, and not to their suppliers. Today, we sell our products at Shopbop, a more luxurious webshop that is owned by Amazon but has better terms and conditions for suppliers. Remember to always ask for what you want! The worst answer you will ever get is a no. Even a small business can affect a decision made by a large corporation if you are determined and stick to what you believe in.

  • Make time for yourself, take good care of yourself and squeeze in a workout when you can. It’s so important to do what makes you feel good. If your body and mind are not working properly, nothing else will either.

  • If I were to start another company today, it would be a company that has a clever solution to an environmental problem. Maybe something about disposable bags, reusing garbage and waste, or reusable energy. There is so much to do on that end and I truly believe that sustainability and the environment is the future.

 

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